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French a ‘useless language’, gay shadow minister says

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  1. No French kisses for him then.

  2. He’s a clown, from his underpants photos, his supposed trawling for anonymous sex, his £92,000 expenses claims, his home flipping, why take seriously anything he says? I wonder how many languages he speaks besides English? Perhaps those who were condemning David Laws would care to comment on this clown?

  3. Why did he not say Welsh was the most important international language? People in the Rhondda will be burning down his constituency home as I type no doubt :D

  4. That’s a bit rich. But he is well placed to see what ‘useless’ is. ie. Labour

  5. Lucio Buffone 15 Jun 2010, 7:19pm

    Bryant is yet again putting his foot in his mouth. The point is that state schools in Britain are rubbish at teaching foreign languages. Dutch kids leave school speaking fluent English, German, French and Spanish (and of course Dutch). Kids should start learning languages when they start school at 5. I am jealous of the opportunities multilingual people have.

  6. Dear Mister Bryant,

    The only useless thing I know are people like YOU! If you are unable to speak anything else than English, and what one, kind of, that’s your problem. Languages are the best thing that can exist, because THEY are the fundamentals of cultural identity! I for myself am fluent in 4 languages and and am able to read at least 3 others. What about you? Are you fluent in those languages? How can you dare saying that? Is Welsh useless? Is Gaelic useless? What us your perception of culture? Money? Poor poor man. Va donc te faire voir chez les Grecs, eh fada! Du hues en Fouss an den Dookes zegut, du Randbéischt. So was von mangelhafter Bildung!

  7. What an utterly ridiculous comment. The man is an imbecile and clearly culturally barren.

    By the way, learn all the languages you want, it will not make much difference as far as the economy is concerned.

    What we need, even more than linguists, incidentally, are engineers and scientists. And the previous government did nothing about that, and it shows.

    This became apparent to me when I was at a big print industry trade fair last month (IPEX, which happens every 4 years at the NEC). As I toured the 11 halls, there were pitifully few British-owned or -run companies among the ?1000 or so exhibitors. The companies driving innovation are from america, germany, france, belgium, holland, japan…. we don’t make any thing. we don’t contribute nearly enough to the technological revolution, the digital revolution. ou can’t build an economy on shopkeepers, merchants and bankers.

  8. Why is his being gay so important to this story, or is it a pink spin on a slow news day?

  9. At last some honesty!

    The French, both the language and the people, are a complete waste of space.

    The only reason French has been forced down student’s throats it to make life easier for the middle classes with their holiday homes in the south of France. Lets try teaching that is relevant to modern needs for once.

    I was forced to endure learning French at school and have never had any use for it even 30 years later.

  10. My cousin’s girlfriend couldn’t ever hear this. She is a huge Francophile.

  11. Can’t find anything to recommend this guy. He was mired deeply in the expenses scandal, having flipped his home twice. (He even had a pot shot at claiming nearly £60,000 2nd home allowance in 2006. I can’t find anything he’s done whilst an MP which gives him any credit whatsoever. After he was threatened with de-selection, his constituency eventually returned him with a 11,500 majority… more fool them. He’s on the wrong side of every libertarian argument with the sole exception of gay rights. And then there’s the Severus Snape style “greying-Y-Fronts” photo. The guy’s a… what’s the antithesis of an asset?

    As for his outburst about French, as far as I know he doesn’t speak any second language… not even Welsh as far as I know. Of course it’s right that more people should be learning Chinese (I’d be happy to give him lessons for an appropriate fee, but I’ve a feeling he’d make a lousy student.) But for a former EU Minister to call French a useless language is pathetic. I’ve had to use French in half the jobs I’ve had since school, so school-French has been pretty damned important to me.

  12. As a francophone, I’m insulted by this man’s claims that the years I spent learning this beautiful language were wasted because it is useless.

  13. Stuart (9) said:
    “I was forced to endure learning French at school and have never had any use for it even 30 years later.”

    So what languages have you used since you left school? What language should the country have educated you in, that would have made a valuable contribution to your long life and career?

  14. What has this got to do with his sexuality or with gay issues in general? NOTHING. So why does Pink News waste time with ‘gay person says/does something’ articles?

  15. “I was forced to endure learning French at school and have never had any use for it even 30 years later.”
    — Stuart (9)

    So what languages have you used since you left school? What language should the country have educated you in, that would have made a valuable contribution to your long life and career?

  16. Tsuchan: I learnt French, German and Latin at school. The German was a help as I lived there for many years, and frankly, I’ve found the Latin more useful than the French, if only so I understand the etymology of language better. Let’s face it, you can speak French fluently and the xenophobic bastards will still refuse to speak to you. Useless language, useless country.

  17. Ilaraisonquoi 15 Jun 2010, 11:09pm

    As a French speaker, I can only concur with his comments. French is useless and overly complicated. With 17 tenses, it should not be taught in schools. We have conjugation lessons here in French-Switzerland until the 9th year of school (Age 15), and it is common to hear native speakers mis-conjugating verbs.

  18. Spanner (16): Interesting perspective. I worked in Belgium for three companies where almost all the long-term British contractors expected everybody to speak English for them. And I worked in UK for an aerospace company with a Head Office in France. Out of some hundred or so people who I travelled with regularly to France, I only ever met one other Brit who was willing to speak French… even in the staff restaurant: they expected everybody to speak English for them.

    I have to say it’s pretty rare to find Brits abroad who don’t expect everybody else to speak their language. And as for French… it is an official language of nearly 30 countries, isn’t it?

  19. Tsuchan: I agree, Brits are pretty insular. Americans are even worse, but fortunately over 80% of them don’t possess a passport, so we can be thankful for that. I have always been of the opinion of “when in Rome…”, and at least extend the courtesy of trying to pick up a few words, even if it is just “please” and “thank you”, it goes a long way with the locals. The only exception I have found to that rule is France, where they still treat you with utter contempt and Gallic shrugs as you stutter with schoolboy Franglais whilst simultaneously waving your arms around like a demented windmill.

  20. Mihangel apYrs 16 Jun 2010, 7:24am

    It would probably be a good idea if our schools taught our young to speak and write ENGLISH properly. Anything else would be a bonus.

  21. If you’re talking about business and commercial developemnt, then compared to Mandarin, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic I suppose French is pretty useless. But anyone who is genuinely ‘insulted’ by Bryant’s remark really needs to get a life.

  22. de Villiers 16 Jun 2010, 8:07am

    To say that the French language may be less commercially useful than Chinese may be accurate. To say that the language is useless is wrong.

    French is more than merely a language. It is a vehicle for culture, art, philosophy and peace. The French language should inspire the speaker and the listener. France is a country of conviction and of values. It has many scars from its history. Its history is that of battles and struggles for liberty, equality, fraternity and secularity.

    All of these scars are reflected in the heart of the French language, the French Republic and the European Union. The European Union is not just for money or a currency, it is not a mere jurisdiction for laws, or directives or procedures. It is also a community of countries – each with its own heritage, values and diverse cultures – and it is that which Frances defends in Europe.

    French carries these values. It is not just a vehicle for communication. It is a vehicle for thought. The French language carries this message throughout the world. It carries the values of France, of fighting for liberty and for peace.

    In France we are proud to have such a language, we respect it and we delight in sharing it.

  23. Of course – Molliere, Racine, Rousseau, Descartes – not to say half the words in English – etc etc …all useless.
    What ignorant buffoons politicians are nowadays. But posters above are right – this is just a story of dreary British insularity, not particularly a gay one.

  24. De Villers, there’s absolutely no reason why France (or, for that matter, any other nationality or ethnicity) shouldn’t be proud of its own language.

    All the more reason to not be insulted by what sounds like an off-the-cuff and perhaps thoughtless remark from a fairly unimportant person.

  25. Riondo (23), I think advocating the learning of languages like Mandarin or Spanish or Arabic over French isn’t really a typical example of ‘dreary British insularity’ – quite the reverse!

  26. Quite a useful language if you are French.

  27. Oh La La! bring back Franglais, merci!

  28. This man is so ridiculous! French is spoken not only in France but also in Quebec,New Brunswick, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg etc () That it may be complicated doesn’t matter, it’s just part of a common anglo-norman-french culture. learning French helps understanding English so much as so many words are common (

  29. Yeah here’s the thing: I’m French, I’m queer, and he’s right.

  30. This is a non story

  31. Monsieur Bryant parle du merde comme toujours.

  32. What a twat.

  33. Chris Bryant has ALWAYS been a joke.

    I can take nothing he says seriously as I get sick a little inside as I remember him in his skid-marked y-fronts trawling for sex on the internet.

    And remember this Bryant moron believes we should be satisfied with civil partnership apartheid.

    As for French – well people in France; Canada; Belgium; Switzerland; Ghana; Algeria; Tunisia; Senegal and Morocco may disagree with his assessment.

    Clearly French may not be as important as English or Mandaran or Spanish.

    But compared to the Welsh language it is FAR more important.

    I think Chris Bryant should focus his energy on forcing everyone in Wales to speak English.

    Let’s see how long his career continues after this.

  34. Il parle un load of bolleaux n’est par?

  35. Since Steve stole my comment (and MartinM expended on it), I shall just say that I’m faintly disappointed that it took until comment 31 for someone to reply en francais. And I wish I could speak another language, even French.

  36. French is the most beautiful, sexy language in the world. The only thing that’s useless is Chris Bryant

  37. Rehan (25) – you are right up to a point but the plain implication about the current ‘utility’ of these widely spoken languages from Bryant’s point of view is economic and/or political – these things are important but his contempt for French shows a complete indifference to cultural and social understanding internationally. Writing off a beautiful language associated with a brilliant culture is crass, and, I reiterate, insular. I somehow doubt that the cultural significance of the languages he is advocating (also rich and subtle tongues), matters to him very much.

  38. See! That’s yer real French, that is!

    English: What’s your age/sex/location?

    French: Par chance, avec c’est AOL nom d’screen chatroom guerre “Sixty69Dude” tu est une belle femme d’missy qui est ready to play?

    English: Oh, you’re a guy?

    French: Tabernak, tu est aussi une hostie gent de chatroom I – was – a – high – school – loser – never – made – it – with – a – lady en sa quest du turnover une roche pour la femmes d’bonne frottage webcam?

    English: Oh, you live in Romania? Sure I go there a couple times a year.

    French: Oui. Je suis un homme de married de twenty ans so ill est not incroyable je est willing de voyager a la Estern Europa pour la sex tombez savage extra marital bang bang with avec someone ANYONE escapez ma wife d’hag stretch marks.

    Lots more here:

  39. It’s an extremely narrow view of language education to think that the only use for a language is how well it will improve your career prospects. French is still an extremely valuable and useful language for people to learn because it is so easy for the English to travel to France and to access the country and the culture. It’s vitally important for the creation of an interesting, well-rounded, outward-looking individual that they are able to experience other cultures and understand how different people think, what other cultures have to offer, in terms of literature, thought etc. Understanding another labguage opens so many doors and opens up so much to a person. Career prospects are one small aspect of the benefits but only one on a long list. Learning to speak fluent French opened up doors for me, opened up my mind and allowed me to appreciate and experience another culture. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Corneille and Camus in their original language. I feel I have benefitted enormously and no I’ve never used it in my career; that’s wasn’t what it was about for me.

  40. Parts of Africa speak French, too! Chinese will never become an international language, as many foreigners and even native speakers can’t write correct characters to save their life. Unless, however, we human would give up handwriting altogether in the future.

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  42. Steven in Shanghai 17 Jun 2010, 10:43am

    Lou – “Chinese will never become an international language” – ??????

    Mandarin Chinese is already is an international language, spoken by around 400 million people around the world as a second language, in addition to around 900 million native speakers. Plus it is one of the 6 official languages of the UN. Just because there are fewer of these second language speakers in Europe and America doesn’t mean it’s not international.

    Bryants comments might not have been worded in the best way. But he does address a serious problem with the British education system when it comes to language learning.

    The amount of energy teachers put into teaching French, and the money it costs is a waste when only 23% of the UK understands French.

    So for every 4 students a French teacher teaches in schOol, only 1 of them is going to still understand french after he or she leaves school. Where is the sense in that? Furthermore, those that do understand French only gain benefit from employment in French speaking countries, all of which have economies that aren’t really doing particularly wel, except for maybe Quebec in Canada, but they all really do speak English.

    I say offer French as a 3rd language to those with the interest in the language and the culture. But if we are going to “force” students to take a second language at school, Education funds need to be allocated more towards the languages of high-growth economies that will provide solid employment opportunities for graduates and economic benefits to the UK as a whole, as a result of easier access and communication to these markets.

    Examples of languages that should be encourages include Arabic, Spanish and the languages of the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China).

    The additional benefit of encouraging the education of these languages will also improve cultural understanding in school children of immigrant cultures and improve racial integration in the UK, particulary amongst Asian communities.

  43. is he a muppet or what? I mean since when the criteria of selecting the foreign languages to learn has been based on its utility and the economical benefits that we can take advantages from? the ones he recommended are quite admittedly useful and guarantee more chance for career or something like that but it doesn’t absolutely mean students should learn these ones. I can’t believe this is a remark made by a gay man who would argue and protest agains people with homophobia and biased mind, isn’t it? furthermore, weren’t it not for French, there wouldn’t have been English language, great deal of vocabularies of which are adopted from french ones. and the major reason that English is world-widely used is due to dominance of USA. Apparently it was far easier for him to make such remarks being one of english-speaking-people.

  44. Spanner (19): Yeah, I’ve had a few bad experiences myself… not all of them with French.

    The first time I worked-up the courage to speak French was age 12 on a boating holiday in Scotland. I said “Hello” to a guy and he replied in a heavy French accent, “I’m sorry, I’m French, I don’t speak English.” I saw him several times during the week before asking him Hello, How-are-you in French. Sadly, his response was exactly the same as when I’d spoken English. :-(

    But I got tired of speaking German in Switzerland and receiving the reply in English. And I was much discouraged in Japan when I asked for “Milk” and received “American coffee”; and “Curry + Rice” and received “water”.

    I know what you mean with the Gallic shrugs and appearing not to try to understand. It’s common but not universal ; but perhaps for the same reason as disinterest and disdain would often be the equivalent reaction from Brits: if a Westerner walks into a Japanese shop, the staff are reluctant to engage because they think “He won’t speak Japanese – I have a problem”; whereas in UK (and US and France?) the equivalent attitude would be “He should speak English/French – otherwise he has a problem”. Anyway, French people aren’t the only people who speak French as a mother tongue.

    Steven in Shanghai (42): I’d love to see Chinese taught regularly in English schools. But French does have some advantages as a first second-language for Brits… it shows the similarities in languages whereas Chinese really only shows the differences; and in spite of what people have said about French tenses, it’s the learning curve for Chinese language is phenomenally steep.

  45. I don’t really agree with the way he said it, but his point is valid. Historically French has been a major language in diplomacy and world affairs, but as more and more Europeans speak better English, and Europe becomes united, French is just less important internationally. I’m not agreeing that we should stop teaching French, but maybe expanding on languages taught would be better, so pupils learn French and Mandarin. Not just introducing new languages, but making pupils learn them earlier and a major overhaul of the way they’re taught is the right step in my opinion.

    If you teach children languages different from English younger, they pick it up much faster. Begin intensive Mandarin in primary schools and introduce French in secondary schools once the kids are bilingual?

  46. I think most Chinese will agree that you have to start young to learn the language, mainly because of the tonal intonation, which you are much more sensitive to at an early age. I would say, by the time you hit 30, you wouldn’t stand a dog’s chance of learning mandarin.

    That said, Western languages are a breeze by comparison, and I am told Spanish is the closest to learn to English, but equally French, Italian and Portuguese are good starters. Personally, I found German easy, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

    PS: Avoid Polish, Hungarian and Gaelic, they are a bitch! ;)

  47. Britain’s problem is that we don’t expose children to foreign languages at the earliest opportunity (natural linguists are a minority and starting to learn new languages after early childhood is much harder), and we gave up teaching them grammar decades ago. The result is that many Brits learn no grammar at all until they start to learn a foreign language. I teach Spanish to mature professional adults who have no idea what a pronoun, verb or preposition is. Often they have little idea of how their own language works. It makes it an uphill struggle and, while the current(how long will it last?) global dominance of English is advantageous to us in lots of ways, it is a powerful disincentive to serious language learning. As a business man once said to me – you can buy anything around the world you like in English. Just try selling something.

  48. When I first read this title I laughed out loud at the audacity. No language is useless. I agree that other languages should be taught in Schools. My first choice would probably be an Asian language. That would be great.

  49. “French is the most beautiful, sexy language in the world. The only thing that’s useless is Chris Bryant”

    And Richard, don’t forget, according to the Merovingian from the movie Matrix Reloaded French is also the best language to curse. Nom de dieu de putain de bordel de merde de saloperie de connard d’enculé de ta mère. It’s like wiping your ass with silk.

  50. Steven in Shanghai 18 Jun 2010, 3:43am

    A lot has been said about how hard it is to learn Chinese, unless you start at a young agent because of the tones and the characters. However from my experience it’s actually not that hard a language to learn as people make it out to be.

    Firstly who here recalls some horribly painful French grammar lessons. I for one do and hated learning how to conjugate French verbs. In Chinese, from a western perspective there is virtually no grammar. The basic principle of Chinese grammar is just word order (syntax) and thats it, there are no verb tenses at all. Making it much easier to grasp. So instead of “I eat” “I ate” “I will eat” it’s “I eat now”, “I eat already” and “I eat later”.

    Because of this easy grammar I think the learning does balance it self out more.

  51. Steven (50): Yes, the grammar is relatively simple, but that in itself creates difficulties for the learner. ;-) I found Japanese an absolute child’s game compared to Chinese. But wouldn’t you agree that the best way to learn Chinese is by total immersion? How difficult is it to learn meaningful amounts of Chinese with 2 hours lessons per week?

  52. MichaelJones 19 Jun 2010, 8:16pm

    French isn’t useless, it’s just an ugly language.

  53. Madame de Merteuil 30 Jun 2010, 2:09pm

    Before calling a language (or a country) useless, I suggest Mr Bryant & al. consider that the generally poor educational level demonstrated in the UK does not place them in an ideal position to be prejudiced against the French. Students entering UK universities have a cultural and educational level that is inferior to what is required in French secondary schools. Fix this problem and your remarks might be taken seriously. Especially as once the general cultural level rises, people realise how ridiculous prejudices are and they start making intelligent remarks.

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